Mary Vonnegut, Ed Bancroft and I published our books on Onboarding, and The Total Onboarding Program over ten years ago, proposing an integrated approach to aligning organizations and then acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating talent. We also suggested 11 “master-class” ideas. Here’s what we said about those then and what we’ve learned since.

 

  1. Go beyond succession planning to strategy-driven future capability planning

As you examine what roles you need to fill in the future, get everyone aligned around hypothetical Total Onboarding Programs and recruiting briefs for those positions. And get all employees aligned around the overall messaging.

We’ve learned that deliberate future capability planning is an even more important framework for thinking. Start with strategy. Then determine who you’re going to need to deliver that strategy and which of those you will 

  1. develop from those already in your organization, 
  2. hire now and develop, and 
  3. hire fully-formed just-in-time.

Before finalizing recruiting briefs, step back and consider if the environment and / or strategy and therefore the brief has changed – we’ve seen this with clients hiring during the COVID era.

 

  1. Attract talent with a culture of continuous sourcing

Direct and train your managers always to be on the lookout for potentially good additions to their teams both internally and externally.

Additionally, require managers to push for diverse backgrounds and perspectives so you’re bringing in not just new people, but new ideas and new ways of doing things. Systematically developing from within is a critical tool for increasing diversity. Chances are your next level leaders are more diverse than your tops.

 

  1. Communicate the importance of attracting talent by setting aside one day each month for interviews

Managers should keep these days open as much as possible to make it easier to schedule candidates for interviews and give managers an opportunity for regular, deliberate interview practice.

We’ve learned many organizations don’t think they can afford this. Wrong. They can’t afford not to do this.

 

  1. Make problem-solving training mandatory for ALL managers

Everybody can benefit from deliberate practice in problem solving because everybody can do a better job of understanding others’ needs, figuring out how to solve others’ problems, and communicating those solutions to those people. This will help everybody in general and be especially helpful in working with potential new team members.

Still true. Will stay true.

 

  1. Systematize the creation and review of personal onboarding plans for all new leaders
  • First designate an owner for onboarding, usually within HR or Organization Development. The owner holds leaders accountable for the creation of their direct reports’ plans.
  • Creating an onboarding plan review board would provide managers and their new employees input on their Personal Onboarding Plans/New Job Plans. This will allow cross-fertilization of the best ideas in Personal Onboarding Plans and announcement cascades while deepening the knowledge and skills of the onboarding managers and the members of the review board.
  • Support this idea with a database of onboarding plans as reference for like jobs.

Stunned that more organizations have not done these, let along having people co-create personal 100-day action plans in advance – such powerful ideas.

 

  1. Systematize accommodation so all new leaders can do real work on Day One

This is one of those areas where being “good enough” cost effectively is all you need. 

There’s been real progress here. Cost effectively good enough is apparently an easier choice than investing to be superior.

 

  1. Systematize Day One with a prototypical Day One agenda

Many organizations have developed modules they can plug into different agendas for different people.

 

  1. Foster onboarding cohorts by setting aside one day each month for group orientations

This will allow you to make the orientations a bigger deal with more regular senior management involvement and the creation of onboarding cohorts.

Even more valuable than we’d imagined. Digital natives are already used to peer-to-peer coaching. The cohorts enable that.

When onboarding more than one senior leader at a time, the CEO / hiring manager needs to ensure clarity of roles and goals and be on the lookout for potential collisions in agendas and activities.

 

  1. Foster two-way, informal mentoring by creating a newcomers’ club with executive sponsors

This will allow newcomers to learn from each other’s and the executives’ experiences and connections. It will give the executives opportunities to get informal feedback from people with fresh eyes, signal the importance of onboarding, reinforce their vision and values.

Still seems like a good idea – though not many have done this, let alone giving every new hire a buddy to help them navigate the culture and answer questions they might not want to voice in public.

 

  1. Prepare to support your new leaders with a stable of internal and external mentors, coaches and transition accelerators

Many organizations are doing this either formally or informally. All are benefiting from it.

During a period of significant change and upheaval (such as a pandemic), when complexity is particularly high, ensure the hiring manager and / or assigned buddies stay close to the new leader, to help them speed up or slow down as needed.

 

  1. Make onboarding stick by measuring and tracking compliance and results

We suggested tracking retention, engagement, employee satisfaction, competitive advantages, impact on employment brand and performance ratings as results measures. We also suggest tracking participation in the onboarding plans. You can’t get the results unless you do the plans. 

These are subsets of improved business results, well worth doing.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #727) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.

 

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